From NASCAR and the Carolina Panthers to roller derby and the Charlotte Bobcats, sports are ingrained into the fabric of this city. But if things look bright for the football team's future, the outlook on the hardcourt couldn't be more dismal.
The Bobcats are coming off of the worst season in NBA history (7-59) and, adding insult to injury, earned the second pick in the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft. The Bobcats fired head coach Paul Silas. The team lacks a franchise player or big name; owner Michael Jordan is a powerful symbol but he isn't enough to sell tickets. Then there's the growing movement to change the team's name to something a little more nostalgic, a little more '80s, a little more early-Creative Loafing — something like, you know, the Hornets.
Perhaps a name change would rekindle some of the early excitement around the Charlotte Hornets. In 1989, this expansion team was the talk of the town. In Perry Tannenbaum's 1989 cover story, "Hornets-Mania!!," the team was on the verge of setting attendance records in its inaugural season, despite finishing with a 20-62 record.
"Every seat in the house is sold — it's been sellout after sellout for 14 straight home games, dating back to Dec. 23," Tannenbaum enthusiastically wrote.
"Even the smallest crowd of the year — the paltry 18,865 who witnessed the franchise's first big W over the woeful L.A. Clippers — was large enough to fill all but four of the other arenas around the league."
By contrast, during the 2011-2012 season, the Bobcats averaged 14,757, though if you attended any of the games, you could easily make a strong argument against that number.
In 1989, Charlotte was in search of "major league status," and fans enjoyed the "carnival atmosphere" of the games. These days, the arena is filled with sorrow for yet another loss and dwindling hope as the light at the end of the tunnel continues to dim.